SA documentaries in the global spotlight

By Robyn Cohen Time of article published May 25, 2017

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South African-made documentaries are generating huge interest, around the world.

Last month a delegation of South African film-makers - many from Cape Town - attended Visions du Réel in Nyon, Switzerland. The prestigious international documentary festival dedicated its focus to South African film - putting our country in the spotlight.

Now a delegation from Visions du Réel is in South Africa to attend South Africa’s premium documentary festival, Encounters, which is on from June 1 to 11 in Cape Town at the Labia Theatre, Nouveau V&A Waterfront and Bertha Movie House (at the newly built Isivivana Centre near the Khayelitsha Mall).

The Johannesburg leg of Encounters is on during the same time, at the Bioscope (Maboneng District) and at Nouveau Rosebank.

Young South African female directors are featured prominently in Encounters 2017.

Many of them are making innovative and experimental documentaries that present alternative narratives into contemporary issues - narratives which have been largely sidelined by male directors. Strike a Rock, directed by Aliki Saragas - which explores the devastating effects of the Marikana disaster on women in the community - is the opening film in Cape Town and Joburg.

Saragas reflected: “Voices from the strong women leaders and the community that surrounds the mine had seemingly been erased from the narrative.

The women featured in my film - two South African mothers and best friends, Primrose Sonti and Thumeka Magwangqana live in Nkaneng, Marikana, an informal settlement in rural South Africa that sprung up around a mine operated by Lonmin Plc, the third largest platinum extractor in the world.

“Despite the international attention, inquiry and mass-activism that followed the massacre, living conditions that motivated the strike in the first place, continue to worsen for the Marikana community. And this is what Primrose and Thumeka are fighting against.”

Encounters Festival director Daryl Els enthused about Strike a Rock.

“After the immense impact

of Miners Shot Down (by Rehad Desai), Strike a Rock is a vital addition to public discourse on Marikana and a film that comes at a critical time.

“We are very excited to be presenting the World Premiere of Strike a Rock as our opening night and it’s wonderful that the film will reach an international audience when it screens at the Sheffield Doc/Fest in the UK.”

Els started The Bioscope in June 2010 and screens film of all genres, local and international and also features live performance.

Els adds: “It’s really exciting to be presenting a number of woman directed and produced work as part of the film programme and Encounters industry days.”

There are 32 South African films and 41 international films at Encounters.

The international line-up includes acclaimed award- winning international feature documentaries such as Pascale Lamche’s Winnie (about Winnie Madikizela-Mandela).

Lamche (France/Netherlands) won Sundance 2017 Best Director World Cinema Documentary. Whitney: Can I Be Me? - Directed by Nick Broomfield and Rudi Dolezal (USA/UK) - chronicling the turbulent life of Whitney Huston - will also be screened. For Encounters details, see

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